Solomon Islands launches new domestic violence law
The Solomon Islands today officially launched the Family Protection Act 2014 which is aimed at curbing domestic violence in the country.
The Solomon Islands today officially launches its Family Protection Act 2014 which is aimed at curbing domestic violence in the country.
A Family Health and Safety Study in 2008 showed that 64 percent of women and girls in Solomon Islands suffer from domestic violence.
The Director of the Women's Development Division in the Solomon Islands Ministry of Women, Youth, Children & Family Affairs says the new act addresses various loopholes in existing legislation including definitions for different forms of abuse.
Pauline Soaki spoke with Koroi Hawkins about the new legislation.
PAULINE SOAKI: It protects all members of the family who are victims of domestic violence. The act covers all forms of abuse, all forms of violence in the home between family members and it provides a definition on you know who are the members of the family in the domestic setting. Importantly the act it not only defines domestic violence but it also makes domestic violence an offence that is punishable by a fine or a prison sentence. And it involves a lot of agencies so you have law and justice you have police you have the health and medical services, you have CSO [Civil Society Organisation] service providers who offer counselling and shelter and the ministry of women as well.
KOROI HAWKINS: And these are all things that were missing or not present in Solomon Islands legislation - how did that make that difficult before in terms of curbing domestic violence and how will that make it easier now?
PS: The act is innovative in that it does not create any new powers or create any new institution really. It enhances the current powers of the police, current powers of the courts and current duties of front-line workers. So the stakeholders that have mandate to stop domestic violence, the CSO's the health and medical services and articulates that the act is accessible for all citizens and visitors in the country. It has gone through a long consultation and challenging process that we want to make sure that it is an act that sort of meets the requirements of our international obligations under the CEDAW the ending of all forms of discrimination against women. Also the convention on rights of children and at the same time it meets requirements that are suitable for our country. It compliments other existing acts like the sexual offence under the penal code and other punishable sort of acts that we have currently and any new acts that will come it will sort of compliment this family protection act. So it is not something new it is something that will just sort of give strength or it enhances powers or duties just to protect families in that sense.
KH: Now that the act is law, the enforcement, the political will, the support from the various organisations and institutions you have mentioned, do you think this act will get the support it needs to become effective?
PS: Well we have sort of acknowledged that there is political will, there is political will at the highest level of government - the prime minister, the DCC government [Democratic Coalition for Change]. His government has been very supportive and even the last government pushing for it to pass and now to have it launched and announced. Since it has been passed we have run a lot of trainings on the act and with the police we have trained police across the provinces and already 300 police are trained on how to use the act how to implement the act. The court local magistrates across provinces even the judges the lawyers have been trained on that act and importantly the front-line service providers such as the CSOs [Civil Society Organisations] providing shelters, counselling and as well as the health workers. So we I think we are all ready to implement the act we have gone through the training understanding what the act is and we are ready and in terms of awareness raising the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs we are also ready for that to go out in the provinces to raise the profile of what the act will do to protect families.
Under the new law the penalty for committing domestic violence is $US3800 and/or three years imprisonment.
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